Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman: BarkSanchez

By: The Dark Gentleman

“Nothing is a free win.”


Hello 64 fans! This is part three of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. Below is the best of my conversation with BarkSanchez, just in time for Lets Go! The consistently dangerous Pikachu main will be defending his region later on this week.


Dark Gentleman: Bark! Let’s talk a little bit about how you got into competitive 64. How did you get your start?

BarkSanchez: That’s a weird kind of question because if you’re talking competition, I didn’t get into the scene until the end of 2014 when Shears made his famous craigslist post. He basically posted an angry ranting challenge that read something like, “I’m a Smash God in 64, if you can beat me I’ll give you twenty bucks.”

Dark Gentleman: So you really did find out about the greater Smash 64 scene by seeing a craigslist post?

BarkSanchez: Yea basically before that my brother, Darkhorse, and I had been going to a weekly bar tournament with widescreen TVs etc. They had Smash 64 and a lot of other classic games. There was a guy there called “Teflon Ron” who they called the “Smash King.” DarkHorse beat him pretty badly and they started calling [Darkhorse] the “Kingslayer.” That was pretty much the extent of our competitive experience before one of the players at the bar found Shears’s craigslist post. He was basically like, “You guys can beat this guy, right?”


Dark Gentleman: You’re lucky enough to have a brother who is also high level at 64. How much did playing with him in the early days impact your future competitive mindset?

BarkSanchez: Darkhorse and I have been competing against each other our whole lives. We always wanted to beat each other and he always had the upper hand. I’ve always kind of attributed my style to playing with him. He’s very mind game oriented which helped me develop a strong mental game. Earlier on he used to mop the floor with me. You think of all the top players in 2014 when we started, those core top players like Isai, Boom, Tacos, Wizzrobe…they’ve been playing competitively for so long. If we had that level of talent that long ago I’m curious as to where we’d be now.

Dark Gentleman: I’m sure there’s a lot of players out there right now who feel the same. I know I do. That depth of experience just counts for so much.

BarkSanchez: I think if Darkhorse travelled to as many tournaments as I do he would be much closer to my level. Travelling and playing many different players can give anyone a huge advantage. I think that’s why so many people are going to online 64 now since it gives them exposure to more high level players and that really helps.


Dark Gentleman: You are one of the most travelled players in the current meta. Having played so many people, how has that changed your style? How would you describe your gameplay in 2017?

BarkSanchez: Well Revan calls it “dumb.” I’m always looking for something kind of dumb or unorthodox. Back in the day if I saw something I liked I always tried to add it to my game. It turned my game into kind of a patchwork of styles-and most people I play now are not ready for all the different options I use. At this point I’ve tried to move away from collecting styles like that and it’s more about bringing out more original additions to the meta. Introducing new things to people that can work in their game…and mine.


Dark Gentleman: What does it mean to you to expand the meta? Can you say more on that?

BarkSanchez: To explore parts of characters that people haven’t seen yet that can be applied to competition. Think about the down Bs with Pika. Its kind of a dumb move but it’s useful and people haven’t seen that til now. Also, some of the weird up B angles I do with Pika. People have started calling it the “BarkSanchez” when it’s really just a basic angle but not a lot people do them. A couple years ago people just used to up B straight up and straight to the stage. Banze was one of the only ones using innovative zip zaps. Wario was also pretty big for the Pika meta with his ledge cancels and zip zaps.

Dark Gentleman: Are there any practical examples from the Pika meta you can explain for our readers?

BarkSanchez: So in the Pikachu ditto, he has a kind of a rock-paper-scissors triangle in neutral between up air, down air, and back air. Most Pikas will strictly stick to up air, because it’s the safer option with the disjointed hitbox and what not. However, I think a lot of people can actually get destroyed by Pikas that know how to successfully space [and use] back air. It gets beat head to head by up air, but back air has better duration and reaches further. I guess in that regard it’s an example of a less safe option becoming very strong if you really know how to use it. Of course if you run into a player with amazing up airs you might get destroyed, but then you have to mix it up.

Dark Gentleman: Lets talk about some of your results. At Frame Perfect Series 2 you won a huge set against Wizzrobe, one of the best players in the USA. Would you describe that as your biggest win yet?

BarkSanchez: You know, everyone jokes about the Kero win, but this win against Wizzrobe is probably bigger. As a very volatile player, I’m always looking at my opponent trying to figure out how well they’re playing on that day. I can always tell when someone is a little bit shook, or not on their game. When I played Wizzy, I don’t think I got his best, but at the same time, I followed through. I used to be very bad at that. I’d take a game from someone very good, and feel in it, but then I’d let it slip away. I’m getting better at punishing players for not giving me their best.

Dark Gentleman: That’s awesome. Is there anything you can tell us about the mental game in that set?

BarkSanchez: If we’re talking about mentality, I kind of snapped when I first played Wizzrobe that day. In the first set he five stocked and four stocked me. In the second set he was up 2-1 (set count) and was up 2 stocks in game 4. I was just sitting there telling myself “I’ve been here before. Alright, if I’m gonna lose, why am I gonna make it this easy on him?” And I just snapped. Right there. I felt like “I don’t have to let him win. I don’t have to sit here and take this.” And I got the comeback and won that game 4. And I think he kind of lost it after that.


Dark Gentleman: I think there’s a lesson in there for every player, whether they’re going up against the best person at their local, or competing in a major.

BarkSanchez: A lot of people at the higher level will kind of sleep on their opponents. Hopefully I’m opening some eyes here but nothing is a free win. Just because you beat someone last time, and the time before, and the time before that, doesn’t mean you’re going to beat them today.


Dark Gentleman: Are there any players or wins that you’re really targeting for this year?

BarkSanchez: I guess there are two players I’d like to get a rematch with and see if I can’t work some magic. Banze, I played him at G3 and embarrassed myself in the first game. However, times are changing and I’d love to play him again. I also think Dext3r was really fun to play against and I think if I got him on a good day I could take him down.

Dark Gentleman: Let’s Go! is this coming weekend. As a quick wrap up, do you have any predictions for yourself?

BarkSanchez: Shears doesn’t think I’ll place top 8. I feel there’s an outside chance I could make top 3.

Dark Gentleman: I hope to see an impressive run from you. Thanks for doing this interview and I’ll see you at Let’s Go!


TDG Conclusion:

First of all let me just say: BarkSanchez is a great guy to talk about Smash with. If you ever have the chance to interact with him at a Smash event, I highly recommend that you do so. And with the great number of tournaments Bark attends, odds are good that you’ll meet him, possibly even in bracket. His commitment to competition is probably one of the biggest defining factors in regards to his status as a high level player. I think Bark is a great example of a player who is simply willing to put in the work and get good. If you play Super Smash Bros. on N64, then BarkSanchez is willing to travel to wherever you are and try to beat you.

Bark is a part of a new wave of high level 64 players who didn’t start competing during the legacy era when tournaments were scarce and the community mostly just existed online. I’d say he’s proof that a Smash player participating in tournaments with friends at a bar can make it to the big stage and start taking some of the big names. It kind of makes you wonder, is that next top player somewhere out there? Is there a future top player still playing on an HDTV in 2017, without having the slightest idea about the competitive 64 scene?

He has an easy-going nature when you talk to him, but Bark is a fierce competitor in-game. He learns from his losses, and builds towards wins. He isn’t a player that wants to coast on his achievements, he embraces the climb. Going into Lets Go!, a tournament in his own backyard that is shaping up to be one of the biggest 64 events of 2017, Bark will be looking to continue his ascent. A lot of talented players will be standing in his way. I’m sure he’s looking forward to the challenge.

Top Picture: BarkSanchez (Right) speaks with Alvin (Left) prior to their match at CEO Dreamland. Credit: Helloitsli Photography


Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman : TR3GTheZ (Ft. Jimmy Joe)

By The Dark Gentleman

“You have to have self confidence.”

Hello Smashers! This is part two of my interview series, Philosophy Corner with The Dark Gentleman, hosted by The Smash Writers. After a great interview with Jigglypuff master Wangera, I next spoke with stylish pro TR3GTheZ. We were also fortunate to be joined in our discussion by veteran commentator Jimmy Joe. Below are the best snippets, paraphrased, from our 1 hour interview.


Dark Gentleman: So, just a basic question so we have these for background for anyone getting introduced to you…when did you actually start getting into Smash?

TheZ: As a childhood game, Smash 64 definitely over Melee and the other ones. So there’s definitely the nostalgia factor as far as I’m concerned. As a competitive thing? I discovered Kalliera, the online netplay client around 2007. I was actually 12 years old back then. Advanced techniques were already a thing then, and there were a fair amount of players who could actually use them. I would even call it a competitive scene although there weren’t any tournaments back then. My first actual console tournament was August 2013.


Dark Gentleman: What was the name of that first tournament?

TheZ: It was “Smash til you Crash 4” in Montreal. It had Revan and SuPeRbOoMfAn. It had a carpool with Mew2King and Sensei and they actually crashed [their car] on the way there. I got 3rd place – I lost to Revan and Boom. After that tourney, I never lost to Revan again at a major.


Dark Gentleman: Since you brought up your matches with Revan, I wanted to ask about that rivalry. I know you two have had close matches such as your set at G3.  Is it much different competing against someone you are close to, like a teammate, then an out of region player?

TheZ: Oh, definitely. Playing someone you’re close to, obviously they should play like the people from around town and such. That’s a very generalized statement but just in North America as a whole, there’s a very developed meta game. The closer you get to a region, the more the players from that region make use of a lot of techniques that aren’t used in other regions.

Jimmy Joe: I think what TDG was asking about, and something I’m personally curious about: do you find it easier or more difficult to play against people you know well on a personal level?

TheZ: I think there are two ways to look at it. When you play someone you’re familiar with, you know what to expect. The factor of “unknown” is a lot less present in terms of character selection and general habits. But playing someone you know nothing about, especially if they know nothing about you then it’s a neutral situation. If I play tacos in bracket, I’ll be scared because he knows what I do. But playing someone from Japan who might even be at a higher level, I’d be probably more comfortable because they don’t know what to expect from me.


Dark Gentleman: Going into some of those matches against players you don’t know as well – when you approach the neutral, are you looking to pick up their habits more or is it about exerting your will and your game plan on them since they don’t know your style?

TheZ: The latter, definitely. A lot of it would be kind of trying to overwhelm the opponent. Not sure how to phrase this – I would say in a scenario when you know nothing about the other player, you’ll often take a step back and you won’t be as offensive. Often in that scenario, I would expect my opponent to sit back and try to analyze. You don’t want to give them the opportunity to do that. You want to run in as soon as there’s an opening. You don’t want to hesitate ever, I think the ball is in the court of the player willing to throw out the hit first.


Dark Gentleman: Whats the toughest set you’ve ever played in?

TheZ: Including those I’ve lost? The toughest set was definitely me vs Boom, at SuperBoomed. But as a set when I wasn’t character locked, I think against Wizzrobe at SSC. I sometimes felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. Straight up. Against other aggressive players, I can sort of understand what they’re doing and I am able to counter whatever they’re throwing at me. But Wizzrobe has a very textbook play style that he has mastered. If you play aggressively or by feel it does not work because playing by feel is directly countered by that textbook style. That’s why I have a lot of trouble figuring him out.

Jimmy Joe: I think that’s a very accurate assessment of Wizzrobe. Seeing his matches against Revan shows exactly what you’re saying because Revan is such an analytical player and Revan was able to pick him apart. But your style is so different from Revan’s that Wizzrobe style may counter yours.

TheZ:  I call [what Wizzrobe does] “walling” which is where he will always be in a position to counter as many possible options as he can. It’s defensive definitely and its going to be based around the more likely approaches that I can throw. Especially because he plays Yoshi, with parry and double jump armor, he can afford to take a hit and counter. Comparing Wizzrobe and Revan, they both play textbook style, but a textbook Yoshi is tougher to handle than a textbook Kirby.


Dark Gentleman: So how would you describe your own style? If you were writing a rankings bio on yourself, what might it say?

TheZ: Oh, I never thought about that to be honest! Very “on the spur”. It’s all very “on the spur”.

Jimmy Joe: I’m not familiar with that expression but I’m guessing its like ad-libbing?

TheZ: Like on the spur of the moment. There’s not much fore thought usually.

Jimmy Joe: I think that most people consider you a very stylish player. Do you think that when you are playing a match, are you are thinking about being stylish?

TheZ: I’m definitely not thinking about it. There are some simple things I don’t like doing like America comboing with Falcon. But playing as Fox or any other character, I will usually do whatever I think will work in that moment. I would use the word “experimental”. Usually in friendlies, experimentation leads to having more options. You will be able to use a move in tournament that you used as a past improvisation you did in friendlies. I encourage people to experiment. If you play friendlies – don’t play standard, always try something new so you can expand your options for the future.


Dark Gentleman: On that topic, what are your thoughts on how to improve at this game? I know some people hit plateaus. How do you keep raising the bar?

TheZ: There are two fundamental things I believe you need to not plateau. First: you have to like the game. I know that sounds weird. Some people play a game they don’t like because they want to be good at something or they want to win the money at the locals. You can not get truly get good at this game if you don’t like it. That’s very important. The other point is, you have to have self confidence. Not to go over the top and be cocky. It’s important that you walk into a set, lets say against Boom. Be realistic, you will likely lose. But you want to put up a fight to the best of your ability. If you’re playing someone much better than you then you have to do your best, and if you’re playing someone closer to your level you have to believe you can win. Tournaments nerves are a big thing. There are some players who are very good and have a lot of potential, but lose to players who have more confidence. It’s very important that people walk into a set with the mentality that they’re playing against a human. There will be mistakes and there will be openings. No match is absolutely unwinnable.


Jimmy Joe: What would you say about practicing? How do you practice? Can everyone get technical with practice and can that help tournament nerves?

TheZ: The direct counter to tournament nerves is playing console with people. At weeklies, smash fests, or other places with an event type atmosphere. I don’t practice as much as I should anymore. My current practice is just online play. I would recommend using online play for match up knowledge and everything mental.


Dark Gentleman: I’m personally interested in the fine line between what’s more important between playing to win and playing to have fun. I ask everyone about this and I get a different answer every time. I’m curious what your thoughts are about that.

TheZ: They are not mutually exclusive. Ultimately, you have to play for fun. If you play to win, even if you get money and make a living etc…if it’s taking a toll on your life, you probably shouldn’t do it. I’m pushing this a little, but its important to have fun. However, I don’t know a lot of people who play just for fun, except Isai. You want to play to win if you want to improve.

Jimmy Joe: Some people enter a set and they’re not trying to win but the idea of fun for them is to do something like landing one Falcon Punch combo in the match.

Dark Gentleman: How do you feel personally about it as TR3GTheZ?

TheZ: As TR3GTheZ I play to win. I just so happen to have fun doing it. Hopefully that’s the case for everyone. This game is extremely fun. Whether I play online or in tournament, it’s always fun. The only thing I don’t have fun with is doubles without the SK rule set (no teams with Pika-Pika or Pika-Kirby). Just my two cents.

Jimmy Joe: Whoah…The Z getting his own agenda out there.


Jimmy Joe: What’s your goal for 2017?

The Z: My goal is to be the best. I don’t necessarily practice for it as much as I should. A lot of it can be attained through kind of a mental thing. A lot if it is just composure.


Jimmy Joe: How far away do you see yourself from a player like Boomfan?

The Z: In terms of in game abilities, very close. Not far at all. Then again, the composure factor and stuff like that ultimately dictates the winner. Boom is a lot better than that I am.


Dark Gentleman: Boom has this ultra confidence that I identify with my competitive background in fight sports. We see this with champion fighters. Boom, when he plugs into the match, he seems to know he will win. Losing doesn’t enter his mind. It’s what you said about confidence but taken to the fullest extreme.

The Z: Yea and that effects a lot. There’s no denying Boom’s incredible talent at this game. It’s very almost…inhuman. But I do think that with more time I could get to that level.


TDG Conclusion :

Talking to TheZ gave me a ton of perspective on next level play. The first thing you notice is how much he simplifies seemingly complex concepts. I think a lot of players over think the challenge of improving at this game. TheZ cuts it down to two main thoughts: you have to like the game and you have to have self confidence. I love that outlook, because he is saying the rest will come with experience. TheZ does not try to style when he plays, style is the product of his “spur of the moment” play. He plays how he wants, and the results show.

What excites me the most is the stylistic variety TheZ brings to the competitive scene. In a game characterized by overtly defensive play, he shines using an aggressive style. We discussed this in depth, comparing his “spur of the moment” decision making to the tactical Yoshi main Wizzrobe’s defensive strategy, and the complete mastery of Boom. This got me thinking about how, on a deep level, the game opens up so much room for personal expression.

The main take away however, is that TR3GTheZ loves Super Smash Bros. 64. You can tell from his answers the passion he has for the game. I think that passion is a big part of what makes him such a formidable opponent.

Picture: TR3GTheZ (Right) battles it out with nothing (Left) at Super Smash Con 2016.